• Volume 29, Issue 3

      September 2004,   pages  209-366

    • Clipboard: Ceramide trafficking: learning from the rebels

      Gagan D Gupta

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    • Clipboard: Mitochondria and mind

      R L Brahmachary

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    • Commentary: Why do honey bee workers destroy each other’s eggs?

      Raghavendra Gadagkar

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    • Commentary: Epigenetics of heterochromatin

      Subhash C Lakhotia

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    • Commentary: M O P Iyengar (1886–1963)

      T V Desikachary

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    • Commentary: Edward B Lewis (1918–2004)

      Rakesh K Mishra

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    • Human brain evolution, theories of innovation, and lessons from the history of technology

      Alfred Gierer

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    • Enhanced functional and structural domain assignments using remote similarity detection procedures for proteins encoded in the genome of Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv

      Seema Namboori Natasha Mhatre Sentivel Sujatha Narayanaswamy Srinivasan Shashi Bhushan Pandit

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      The sequencing of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) H37Rv genome has facilitated deeper insights into the biology of MTB, yet the functions of many MTB proteins are unknown. We have used sensitive profile-based search procedures to assign functional and structural domains to infer functions of gene products encoded in MTB. These domain assignments have been made using a compendium of sequence and structural domain families. Functions are predicted for 78% of the encoded gene products. For 69% of these, functions can be inferred by domain assignments. The functions for the rest are deduced from their homology to proteins of known function. Superfamily relationships between families of unknown and known structures have increased structural information by ∼ 11%. Remote similarity detection methods have enabled domain assignments for 1325 ‘hypothetical proteins’. The most populated families in MTB are involved in lipid metabolism, entry and survival of the bacillus in host. Interestingly, for 353 proteins, which we refer to as MTB-specific, no homologues have been identified. Numerous, previously unannotated, hypothetical proteins have been assigned domains and some of these could perhaps be the possible chemotherapeutic targets. MTB-specific proteins might include factors responsible for virulence. Importantly, these assignments could be valuable for experimental endeavors. The detailed results are publicly available at http://hodgkin.mbu.iisc.ernet.in/∼dots.

    • When proteome meets genome: the alpha helix and the beta strand of proteins are eschewed by mRNA splice junctions and may define the minimal indivisible modules of protein architecture

      Sailen Barik

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      The significance of the intron-exon structure of genes is a mystery. As eukaryotic proteins are made up of modular functional domains, each exon was suspected to encode some form of module; however, the definition of a module remained vague. Comparison of pre-mRNA splice junctions with the three-dimensional architecture of its protein product from different eukaryotes revealed that the junctions were far less likely to occur inside the 𝛼-helices and 𝛽-strands of proteins than within the more flexible linker regions (‘turns’ and ‘loops’) connecting them. The splice junctions were equally distributed in the different types of linkers and throughout the linker sequence, although a slight preference for the central region of the linker was observed. The avoidance of the 𝛼-helix and the 𝛽-strand by splice junctions suggests the existence of a selection pressure against their disruption, perhaps underscoring the investment made by nature in building these intricate secondary structures. A corollary is that the helix and the strand are the smallest integral architectural units of a protein and represent the minimal modules in the evolution of protein structure. These results should find use in comparative genomics, designing of cloning strategies, and in the mutual verification of genome sequences with protein structures.

    • An allele-specific polymerase chain reaction assay for the differentiation of members of the Anopheles culicifacies complex

      O P Singh Geeta Goswami N Nanda K Raghavendra D Chandra S K Subbarao

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      Anopheles culicifacies, the principal vector of malaria in India, is a complex of five cryptic species which are morphologically indistinguishable at any stage of life. In view of the practical difficulties associated with classical cytotaxonomic method for the identification of members of the complex, an allele-specific polymerase chain reaction (ASPCR) assay targeted to the D3 domain of 28S ribosomal DNA was developed. The assay discriminates An. culicifacies species A and D from species B, C and E. The assay was validated using chromosomally-identified specimens of An. culicifacies from different geographical regions of India representing different sympatric associations. The assay correctly differentiates species A and D from species B, C and E. The possible use of this diagnostic assay in disease vector control programmes is discussed.

    • Protoporphyrin IX-induced structural and functional changes in human red blood cells, haemoglobin and myoglobin

      Susmita Sil Tania Bose Dibyendu Roy Abhay Sankar Chakraborti

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      Protoporphyrin IX and its derivatives are used as photosensitizers in the photodynamic therapy of cancer. Protoporphyrin IX penetrates into human red blood cells and releases oxygen from them. This leads to a change in the morphology of the cells. Spectrophotometric studies reveal that protoporphyrin IX interacts with haemoglobin and myoglobin forming ground state complexes. For both proteins, the binding affinity constant decreases, while the possible number of binding sites increases, as the aggregation state of the porphyrin is increased. The interactions lead to conformational changes of both haemoglobin and myoglobin as observed in circular dichroism studies. Upon binding with the proteins, protoporphyrin IX releases the heme-bound oxygen from the oxyproteins, which is dependent on the stoichiometric ratios of the porphyrin: protein. The peroxidase activities of haemoglobin and myoglobin are potentiated by the protein-porphyrin complexation. Possible mechanisms underlying the relation between the porphyrin-induced structural modifications of the heme proteins and alterations in their functional properties have been discussed. The findings may have a role in establishing efficacy of therapeutic uses of porphyrins as well as in elucidating their mechanisms of action as therapeutic agents.

    • Can mushrooms fix atmospheric nitrogen?

      H S Jayasinghearachchi Gamini Seneviratne

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      It is generally reported that fungi like Pleurotus spp. can fix nitrogen (N2). The way they do it is still not clear. The present study hypothesized that only associations of fungi and diazotrophs can fix N2. This was tested in vitro. Pleurotus ostreatus was inoculated with a bradyrhizobial strain nodulating soybean and P. ostreatus with no inoculation was maintained as a control. At maximum mycelial colonization by the bradyrhizobial strain and biofilm formation, the cultures were subjected to acetylene reduction assay (ARA). Another set of the cultures was evaluated for growth and nitrogen accumulation. Nitrogenase activity was present in the biofilm, but not when the fungus or the bradyrhizobial strain was alone. A significant reduction in mycelial dry weight and a significant increase in nitrogen concentration were observed in the inoculated cultures compared to the controls. The mycelial weight reduction could be attributed to C transfer from the fungus to the bradyrhizobial strain, because of high C cost of biological N2 fixation. This needs further investigations using 14C isotopic tracers. It is clear from the present study that mushrooms alone cannot fix atmospheric N2. But when they are in association with diazotrophs, nitrogenase activity is detected because of the diazotrophic N2 fixation. It is not the fungus that fixes N2 as reported earlier. Effective N2 fixing systems, such as the present one, may be used to increase protein content of mushrooms. Our study has implications for future identification of as yet unidentified N2 systems occurring in the environment.

    • Infectivity analysis of two variable DNA B components of Mungbean yellow mosaic virus-Vigna in Vigna mungo and Vigna radiata

      V Balaji R Vanitharani A S Karthikeyan S Anbalagan K Veluthambi

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      Mungbean yellow mosaic virus-Vigna (MYMV-Vig), a Begomovirus that causes yellow mosaic disease, was cloned from field-infected blackgram (Vigna mungo). One DNA A clone (KA30) and five different DNA B clones (KA21, KA22, KA27, KA28 and KA34) were obtained. The sequence identity in the 150-nt common region (CR) between DNA A and DNA B was highest (95%) for KA22 DNA B and lowest (85.6%) for KA27 DNA B. The Rep-binding domain had three complete 11-nt (5′-TGTATCGGTGT-3′) iterons in KA22 DNA B (and KA21, KA28 and KA34), while the first iteron in KA27 DNA B (5′-ATCGGTGT-3′) had a 3-nt deletion. KA27 DNA B, which exhibited 93.9% CR sequence identity to the mungbean-infecting MYMV, also shared the 3-nt deletion in the first iteron besides having an 18-nt insertion between the third iteron and the conserved nonanucleotide. MYMV was found to be closely related to KA27 DNA B in amino acid sequence identity of BV1 (94.1%) and BC1 (97.6%) proteins and in the organization of nuclear localization signal (NLS), nuclear export signal (NES) and phosphorylation sites. Agroinoculation of blackgram (V. mungo) and mungbean (V. radiata) with partial dimers of KA27 and KA22 DNA Bs along with DNA A caused distinctly different symptoms. KA22 DNA B caused more intense yellow mosaic symptoms with high viral DNA titre in blackgram. In contrast, KA27 DNA B caused more intense yellow mosaic symptoms with high viral DNA titre in mungbean. Thus, DNA B of MYMV-Vig is an important determinant of host-range between V. mungo and V. radiata.

    • Do leaf surface characteristics affect Agrobacterium infection in tea [Camellia sinensis (L.) O Kuntze]?

      Nitish Kumar Subedar Pandey Amita Bhattacharya Paramvir Singh Ahuja

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      The host range specificity of Agrobacterium with five tea cultivars and an unrelated species (Artemisia parviflora) having extreme surface characteristics was evaluated in the present study. The degree of Agrobacterium infection in the five cultivars of tea was affected by leaf wetness, micro-morphology and surface chemistry. Wettable leaf surfaces of TV1, Upasi-9 and Kangra jat showed higher rate (75%) of Agrobacterium infection compared to Upasi-10 and ST-449, whereas non-wettable leaves of A. parviflora showed minimum (25%) infection. This indicated that the leaves with glabrous surface having lower 𝜃 (larger surface area covered by water droplet), higher phenol and wax content were more suitable for Agrobacterium infection. Caffeine fraction of tea promoted Agrobacterium infection even in leaves poor in wax (Upasi-10), whereas caffeine-free wax inhibited both Agrobacterium growth and infection. Thus, study suggests the importance of leaf surface features in influencing the Agrobacterium infection in tea leaf explants. Our study also provides a basis for the screening of a clone/cultivar of a particular species most suitable for Agrobacterium infection the first step in Agrobacterium-mediated genetic transformation.

    • Genetic diversity amongst landraces of a dioecious vegetatively propagated plant, betelvine (Piper betle L.)

      Anjali Verma Nikhil Kumar S A Ranade

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      Betelvine (Piper betle L., family Piperaceae) is an important, traditional and widely cultivated crop of India. The cultivators and consumers recognize more than 100 cultivars (landraces) based on regional and organoleptic considerations, while in terms of phytochemical constituents only five groups have been identified for all the landraces. Since betelvine is an obligate vegetatively propagated species, genomic changes, if any, may have become ‘fixed’ in the landraces. We carried out random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) analysis in several landraces considered in four groups, namely, ‘Kapoori’, ‘Bangla’, ‘Sanchi’ and ‘Others’ in order to ascertain their genetic diversity. On the basis of the data from eleven RAPD primers, we distinguished genetic variation within and among the four groups of landraces. The results indicate the ‘Kapoori’ group is the most diverse. The neighbour joining (NJ) tree after a bootstrap (500 replicate) test of robustness clearly shows the four groups to be well separated. Interestingly, all known male or female betelvine landraces have separated in the NJ tree indicating an apparent gender-based distinction among the betelvines.

    • Subcellular localization of cadmium in the root cells of Allium cepa by electron energy loss spectroscopy and cytochemistry

      Donghua Liu Ingrid Kottke

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      The ultrastructural investigation of the root cells of Allium cepa L. exposed to 1 mM and 10 mM cadmium (Cd) for 48 and 72 h was carried out. The results indicated that Cd induced several obvious ultrastructural changes such as increased vacuolation, condensed cytoplasm with increased density of the matrix, reduction of mitochondrial cristae, severe plasmolysis and highly condensed nuclear chromatin. Electron dense granules appeared between the cell wall and plasmalemma. In vacuoles, electron dense granules encircled by the membrane were aggregated and formed into larger precipitates, which increase in number and volume as a consequence of excessive Cd exposure. Data from electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) confirmed that these granules contained Cd and showed that significantly higher level of Cd in vacuoles existed in the vacuolar precipitates of meristematic or cortical parenchyma cells of the differentiating and mature roots treated with 1 mM and 10 mM Cd. High levels of Cd were also observed in the crowded electron dense granules of nucleoli. However, no Cd was found in cell walls or in cells of the vascular cylinder. A positive Gomori-Swift reaction showed that small metallic silver grains were abundantly localized in the vesicles, which were distributed in the cytoplasm along the cell wall.

    • Cell volume changes affect gluconeogenesis in the perfused liver of the catfish Clarias batrachus

      Carina Goswami Shritapa Datta Kuheli Biswas Nirmalendu Saha

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      In addition to lactate and pyruvate, some amino acids were found to serve as potential gluconeogenic substrates in the perfused liver of Clarias batrachus. Glutamate was found to be the most effective substrate, followed by lactate, pyruvate, serine, ornithine, proline, glutamine, glycine, and aspartate. Four gluconeogenic enzymes, namely phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK), pyruvate carboxylase (PC), fructose 1,6-bisphosphatase (FBPase) and glucose 6-phosphatase (G6Pase) could be detected mainly in liver and kidney, suggesting that the latter are the two major organs responsible for gluconeogenic activity in this fish. Hypo-osmotically induced cell swelling caused a significant decrease of gluconeogenic efflux accompanied with significant decrease of activities of PEPCK, FBPase and G6Pase enzymes in the perfused liver. Opposing effects were seen in response to hyper-osmotically induced cell shrinkage. These changes were partly blocked in the presence of cycloheximide, suggesting that the aniso-osmotic regulations of gluconeogenesis possibly occurs through an inverse regulation of enzyme proteins and/or a regulatory protein synthesis in this catfish. In conclusion, gluconeogenesis appears to play a vital role in C. batrachus in maintaining glucose homeostasis, which is influenced by cell volume changes possibly for proper energy supply under osmotic stress.

    • Extracellular electrical activity from the photoreceptors of midge

      A A Babrekar G R Kulkarni B B Nath P B Vidyasagar

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      The ontogeny of photosensitivity has been studied in a holometabolous insect, the midge Chironomus ramosus. The life cycle of midges shifts from an aquatic environment to a non-aquatic environment. Extracellular electrical activity of photoreceptor organs was recorded at larval and adult stages. We found an increase in photosensitivity as the larva metamorphosed to the adult stage. This is the first report of changes in photosensitivity during the development of any insect described in an ecological context.

    • mRNA translation during oocyte maturation plays a key role in development of primordial germ cells in Xenopus embryos

      Bahman Zeynali Keith E Dixon

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      It is believed that cytoplasmic localization in the egg is necessary for development of primordial germ cells (PGCs) in Xenopus embryos. In this study, we sought to determine if translation of maternal mRNA during oocyte maturation is involved in the development of PGCs. Donor oocytes were collected from both stimulated (those who receive gonadotropin) and unstimulated females, artificially matured and fertilized using a host transfer technique. Using chloramphenicol (50 𝜇M and 500 𝜇M RNA), RNA translation was inhibited during oocyte maturation. Our results showed that in unstimulated embryos treated with 50 𝜇M chloramphenicol, there was a significant reduction in the number of PGCs reaching genital ridges. In stimulated embryos, however, the number of PGCs was unchanged unless a higher concentration (500 𝜇M) of chloramphenicol was used. From these results it is suggested that maternal mRNA translation during oocyte maturation plays a key role in development of PGCs.

    • Sexual selection, redundancy and survival of the most beautiful

      R D Morris J A Morris

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      A model is described of a highly redundant complex organism that has overlapping banks of genes such that each vital function is specified by several different genetic systems. This generates a synergistic profile linking probability of survival to the number of deleterious mutations in the genome. Computer models show that there is a dynamic interaction between the mean number of new deleterious mutations per generation (𝑋), the mean number of deleterious mutations in the genome of the population (𝑌) and percentage zygote survival (Zs). Increased 𝑋 leads to increased 𝑌 and a fall in Zs but it takes several generations before a new equilibrium is reached. If sexual attraction is influenced by the number of deleterious mutations in the genome of individuals then 𝑌 is reduced and Zs increased for any given value of 𝑋. This fall in 𝑌 and rise in Zs is more marked in polygamous than monogamous mating systems. The model is specified such that deleterious mutations can occur without any observable or measurable effect on function. Thus sexual selection, in this organism, for low levels of deleterious mutations cannot be based on assessment of performance. Instead it is based on a simple symmetrical surface pattern that is flawlessly reproduced by organisms with no deleterious mutations, but is less than perfect, and therefore less attractive, if genetic systems have been deleted. A complex vital task requires a system with a high level of redundancy that acts so that the loss of one component has no observable effect and therefore cannot be used for sexual selection. The reproduction of a beautiful surface pattern also requires a low error, high redundancy genetic system; however, in this case there is advantage if a single deleterious mutation produces a recognisable change. This leads to the conclusion that sexual selection and sexual attraction should be based on beauty rather than utility, and explains the common observation in nature that it is the most beautiful that survive.

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